A lie makes it halfway around the world before the truth "has a chance to get its pants on," Winston Churchill wrote, but the Internet has cut that time to the speed of light and makes no distinction between lie and truth.
Two Minnesota men named in a tweet by the terror group al-Shabaab as being among the attackers of the Westgate shopping mall in Kenya appear to be as fake as the Twitter account that posted their names, according to members of the local Somali community.
Ahmed Mohamed Isse, 22, of St. Paul and Abdifatah Osman Keenadiid, 24, of Minneapolis, were among nine named by CNN as being among the mall attackers. Their names were in a tweet posted by al-Shabaab.
It soon became apparent the Twitter account was fake, and there is no record that anyone with those names lived in Minnesota.
Although government prosecutors produced charts with names and photos of many of the "travelers," neither of the men named in the Twitter message appear on the charts and their names do not appear in the public court records of the 18 men and one woman who have been charged in what the FBI dubbed, "Operation Rhino."
State databases available to the Pioneer Press showed no records for anybody named Abdifatah Osman Keenadiid or Ahmed Mohamed Isse.
"I think there's a lot of misinformation going around," said Ibrahim Baraki, 40, of Burnsville, a native of Kenya who was among those spoke at an afternoon news conference at Abubakar As-Sidique Islamic Center in Minneapolis' Phillips neighborhood.
"Nobody knows who those people are," he said. "They're names just flying around."
Minnesota imams who once again feared their religion would be blamed for the acts of a terror group gathered at the state's largest mosque to denounce al-Shabaab and its attack at a shopping mall in Kenya's capital of Nairobi.
"This outrageous act of violence has no place in Islam," Imam Abdisalam Adam said. "The perpetrators of this barbaric act do not share our Islamic values. In fact, extremist groups such as al-Qaida and its affiliate al-Shabaab have done more harm to Islam and Muslims."
That sentiment was underscored last week when a conference of Muslim scholars, including Imam Hassan Mohamud of St. Paul, met in Mogadishu, Somalia, and issued a fatwa, or Islamic legal ruling, condemning al-Shabaab.
"After research and after papers we submitted on al-Shabaab and their behaviors, we concluded that it has no place in Islam," said Mohamud, imam and director of the Minnesota Da'Wah Institute on University Avenue in St. Paul.
Among other things, the fatwa forbids any Muslim from joining, sympathizing or rendering aid to al-Shabaab.
The Twin Cities is home to the nation's largest Somali community, which numbers more than 32,000. They are refugees from an African nation torn by two decades of violence and chaos.